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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest News for June 18, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Ullrich expects more attacks

Guerini and Ullrich
Photo ©: Sirotti

The current leader of the Tour de Suisse, Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) said that he expects his rivals to attack him in the mountains in the coming two days. Ullrich, who took the lead in the nine day race by winning the first stage, has so far survived two uphill finishes and yesterday's big mountain stage over the Sustenpass and Klausenpass. This is despite losing three teammates (Vinokourov, Steinhauser and Wesemann) due to crashes or sickness.

"Yesterday me team was super in helping me over the passes," wrote Ullrich on his website, "From Botero to Guerini, all of them sacrificed themselves for me. It was super how Beppo could hold the tempo so high on the Klausen. Thank you all very much.

"Today to Malbun it will be tough once again. I expect attacks from Camenzind, Cioni and Jeker, who are all in good form. The uphill finish will certainly suit the specialists. If I don't lose too much time, then this tour will be decided on Sunday in the time trial. That is my special discipline!"

Cioni moves up

Dario Cioni (Fassa Bortolo) has moved up to fourth place on the general classification of the Tour de Suisse after hanging with the Ullrich group in yesterday's tough mountain stage between Frutigen and Linthal. Cioni finished eighth on the stage in the same time as Ullrich and now sits in fourth on GC at 25 seconds - the same time as Georg Totschnig (3rd) and Jose Maria Del Olmo (5th).

"I wanted to remain close to Ullrich for the whole stage," said Cioni. "On the last climb, Guerini set a really strong pace, and created the selection. I felt really good, but I didn't think it was possible to attack a rhythm like that. Today there is the next uphill finish of this race, so I'll see how I feel. However, my minimum objective, in view of the time trial that finishes the race on Sunday, remains the podium."

Opposition calls for inquiry into AIS track cycling program

Australian Labor Senator John Faulkner has called for an inquiry into drug taking within the Australian Institute of Sport's track cycling program in the wake of the Mark French affair. Last week, 19 year old French was fined $1,000 and given a two year suspension after growth hormones were found in his room at the Australian Institute of Sport in December 2003. Senator Faulkner is alleging that the doping affair is not limited to Mark French, but there are up to five other track cyclists involved.

In comments made to the Senate, Senator Faulkner, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, said that, "I am informed that, sometime in the first half of 2003, French was introduced to substance injection, initially of vitamins only, by another and more senior member of the AIS squad. I understand he has admitted to requesting that the other athlete inject him on a number of occasions with legal substances, vitamins B and C and Carnitine. I also understand that in June 2003 French was introduced by the same athlete to injections of a product known as Testicomp, which contains a banned glucocorticosteroid."

"The AIS squad then attended a training camp in Germany where the same athlete suggested that French purchase this product from a pharmacy and that he split the drugs purchased with a third athlete. On return to Australia, French's room 121 at Del Monte became the central point of choice for AIS cyclists to self-inject with a variety of substances. I understand French has said that he only injected himself with vitamins or Testicomp, but it is now known that at least four other cyclists used his room for the injection of both legal and prohibited substances, the latter including Testicomp and equine growth hormone.

"I understand that room 121 was used for the storage and use of banned drugs, for the storage of drug-taking paraphernalia such as syringes, needles and armbands, and for the disposal of used equipment in homemade 'sharps' containers and that these activities involved up to six athletes locked in French's room on several nights a week for a period of months. These covert activities apparently went undetected until French was vacating his room in December last year, and cleaners found his 'sharps' bucket in his room, with used needles and syringes and used vials containing traces of banned substances including equine growth hormone...Why didn't the coaches and other staff twig that something untoward was taking place?"

Senator Faulkner then expressed concern about the Australian Sports Commission's subsequent handling of the case. "This investigation did not report until February 2004 and, as far as I can tell, this report has not been forwarded to anyone outside the Sports Commission," he said. "My concerns about this case relate to the manifestly inadequate actions of the AIS, the Sports Commission and, ultimately, the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Kemp."

While reiterating his concerns, Senator Faulkner added, "Despite the considerable evidence, including the admissions of French, there have been no charges brought against any of the five other athletes alleged to have been involved in the purchase, possession or trafficking of drugs; the storage of drugs and implements; the administration of prohibited substances; or the disposal of used instruments in room 121 at Del Monte. I understand that, of the five other cyclists understood to be involved, at least two are considered potential Olympic gold medallists."

Senator Faulker said that the ASC has been "less than transparent" throughout the investigation, and accused it of being hush-hush about the findings. "The French case has shown the need for an investigation to be undertaken independent of the ASC, particularly where Australian Institute of Sport athletes are involved," he said. "I believe this to be an entirely proper course of action because of the possible implications for the cycling squad in the Australian team for the Athens Olympic Games this year."

The Shadow Minister for Sport, Senator Kate Lundy, backed Senator Faulkner's call for a parliamentary inquiry, stating that it "must be fully independent of the Australian Sports Commission, the Australian Institute of Sport, the national sporting organisation involved (Cycling Australia) and the government."

In response to Senator Faulkner's comments, the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Rod Kemp, called for caution in the affair. "We are now building the Australian momentum towards Athens and it is important that our athletes are drug free - no-one would argue that - but these matters have to be handled in an appropriate fashion and that applies to everybody involved."

"The Australian government has a zero tolerance policy for drugs in sport," added Senator Kemp. "We will not tolerate it in any shape or form."

Cycling Australia CEO Graham Fredericks expressed his disappointment in comments made to the ABC, saying, "What does concern me significantly is that the Senator has made these allegations with some level of impunity. That, I think, casts a slur over the whole track program, and I think that's rather unfair and unfortunate and I don't believe the athletes have been given a fair shot here."

The report into the Mark French affair could be made public as early as next Monday.

Swiss Cycling gets tougher

The Swiss Cycling Federation is to toughen its stance on illegal drugs, announcing that riders can be suspended immediately if their "A sample" is positive. Under current rules, a rider can appeal if their A test is positive, and a sanction will follow only if their B test is also positive. The new regulations are expected to come into effect on January 1, 2005,

"We work on a zero tolerance basis," said Swiss Cycling president Frank Hofer. "Worldwide, we are the only federation that positions itself so clearly."

The new rules will also apply to foreign riders possessing a Swiss licence, such as Jan Ullrich, Steffen Wesemann, Daniele Nardello (all T-Mobile), Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner) and Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola).

Short but tough 28th Route du Sud

Running between Saturday, June 19 and Tuesday, June 22 is the 28th edition of the Route du Sud. Held over four stages in the southern part of France and northern Spain, the Route du Sud is a condensed test for an all-round cyclist. Its proximity to the Tour de France makes it useful as a form tester as well, although many top riders consider it to be too hard and too close to the Tour for preparation.

The first stage starts in Castres and travels 228 km to Vielha (Spain), finishing uphill at 971m altitude. Stage 2 from Lès (Spain) to St Gaudens (France) is significantly shorter at 141 km, and should benefit the sprinters. The third stage is a 23.5 km individual time trial from Loures Barousse to Sarp, containing some small, but tough climbs. The final stage will be the decider, between Montréjeau and Loudenvielle Le Louron, passing over the famous Pyreneean climbs of Col du Peyresourde, Col d'Aspin, Hourquette d'Ancizan and Col du Val Louron, with the last climb coming with 19 km to go.

There are 11 teams entered in the race, including all of the major French teams, along with a smattering of foreign squads: Ag2R Prevoyance, Credit Agricole, Cofidis, Brioches La Boulangère,, R.A.G.T. Semences, Oktos, Auber93, T - Mobile, Alessio Bianchi and Team Wiesenhof.

The stages

Stage 1 - June 19: Castres - Vielha (Spa), 228 km
Stage 2 - June 20: Lès (Spa) - St Gaudens (Fra), 141 km
Stage 3 - June 21: Loures Barousse - Sarp ITT, 23.5 km
Stage 4 - June 22: Montréjeau - Loudenvielle Le Louron, 150.1 km

Fassa Bortolo announces Tour team

The Fassa Bortolo squad has been named for the Tour de France. Built around super sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, the team also contains Tour stage winner Juan Antonio Flecha, who won in Toulouse last year, and Aitor Gonzalez, winner of the Vuelta España in 2002.

The full team is: Marzio Bruseghin, Fabian Cancellara, Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni, Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez, Kim Kirchen, Alessandro Petacchi, Filippo Pozzato, Matteo Tosatto and Marco Velo. The reserves are Dario Cioni, Volodimir Gustov and Alberto Ongarato.

Alvaro Gonzalez to miss Tour

Diagnosed with a fractured radius after a recent crash, Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty Seguros) will have to stop riding for up to two weeks and will miss the Tour de France. Gonzalez de Galdeano was examined by Dr. Mikel Sánchez in the clinic "La Esperanza" on Thursday, who diagnosed the fracture.

"It's the first time that I've known so far in advance that I can't go to the Tour de France," said Gonzalez de Galdeano to Todociclismo. "Now, the only thing to do is to have patience and to recover well from the fracture."

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